Sometimes over the past 14 years of running Birthtalk.org we’ve heard well-intentioned people – even some birth workers – ask the wrong questions to a woman who has just shared details about her traumatic birth.
(And Melissa from Birthtalk.org had some of those questions asked of her, after her own traumatic birth.)
Questions like :
- “Why didn’t you consider a homebirth?”
- “Why didn’t you ask for a mobile epidural?”
- “Why didn’t you just refuse consent?”
- “Why didn’t you just opt for a caesarean in the beginning?”
- “Why did you wait so long before having pain relief?”
Anything that starts with “Why didn’t you…?” is NOT helpful in the initial healing stage.
Maybe it’s not helpful at any stage.
A woman needs to know that YOU know this :
Every single decision she made was to preserve the life of her child, or to survive the experience herself (sometimes to emotionally survive), and sometimes that can mean doing what she might not do in other circumstances… because when birthing in our culture and our maternal health system we are often alone, and vulnerable, and scared, and desperate to take this baby home while hearing terrible stories.
There is an incredible strength in mothers – who will do what it takes for their child’s sake.
And yes, sometimes they have been given incorrect or manipulative information.
Sometimes they have had access to inaccurate advice that skews their decision-making.
Sometimes they are faced with unsupportive partners, support people, family.
But they are ALWAYS. ALWAYS. making the best decisions they can with the information and resources they have.
So stop asking “Why didn’t you?”
And start showering her with the love and the affirmation she needs.
Give her the room to tell her story.
Let her know that you know she has done the best she can with the information she has.
And that you can understand her decision-making in that situation.
And that you know that birth trauma is real…AND it is possible to heal.
PS. We’d also like to hear what questions you’ve been asked that felt harmful rather than helpful – feel free to share below – your sharing may offer support to other women who have experienced similar comments.
©Melissa Bruijn and Debby Gould, Birthtalk.org 2017.
Melissa and Debby are the authors of How to Heal a Bad Birth : making sense, making peace and moving on. This ground-breaking self-help book takes the reader on a ‘Choose your own adventure’ style of healing journey… because every woman’s path to healing will be different. The pages are filled with heartfelt quotes from women, facts and insights about birth trauma, and ideas for dealing with common emotions that arise such as sadness, guilt, feelings of failure, anger and partner issues. There are step-by-step tools for healing, and immense support and compassion contained within these pages. Say the authors : “For the past 14 years we’ve been working with women after a traumatic birth in our ‘Healing From Birth’ support sessions. Because we’ve see the impact birth can have, we are gentle with women’s hearts as they step forward and acknowledge that they are ready to take the journey to healing. And we are with you all the way.”